Vicki Rose tells her and Bill's story in the book Every Reason to Leave: And Why We Chose to Stay Together.
Bill and Vicki Rose will stop at nothing to make sure their marriage makes it. Lately they've been trying something unusual: singing in bed. The Roses concentrate on praise songs. That is a challenge for Bill, who isn't a morning person. "It's not exactly a natural thing," he says, sounding a tiny bit grumpy. If you're guessing this experiment wasn't Bill's idea, you're right. But they both know that staying together takes hard work, especially when they're so different from each other. They know it from experience — the experience of seeing their own marriage collapse.
How firm a foundation?
When Bill and Vicki met in 1975, they had practically nothing in common, except that both came from mostly nonpracticing Jewish households in Manhattan — and they both shared a taste for the finer things in life. Bill worked in his family's textile business; Vicki dreamed of being rich and famous. When Bill got her a diamond pendant for Christmas that year, she knew his money and connections would give her everything she'd grown up craving. The two of them moved in together.
Bill and his father bought a minority stake in the New York Yankees in 1976, and Vicki became a regular fixture at the stadium. No sports fan, she still loved meeting celebrities in the owner's box.
The underpinnings of Bill and Vicki's marriage in 1977 couldn't have been shakier. Hours before the wedding, Bill panicked and told his parents he couldn't go through with it. His mom calmed him down. Vicki had already confided to her best friend that she didn't think the marriage would survive. But Vicki wanted to be wed anyway — and if things went south, she could always get a divorce. Thus began a roller-coaster relationship that couldn't possibly work — at least not from a human perspective.
After the wedding, Vicki held on to Bill by going along with whatever he wanted — which usually involved sports. He didn't show much interest in any of her preferences.
Then one summer early in their marriage, Vicki moved out of the house, had an affair and started using cocaine — the era's "party drug." Bill started snorting, too, and Vicki heard he'd been seen with another woman in Bermuda. Still, he begged Vicki to come home to him. She did, and the two of them started using cocaine together at the trendy Studio 54 nightclub.
Least likely to succeed
The lowest dip in the relationship came in 1986, when Vicki asked Bill to leave. She'd stopped using cocaine. The two of them had endured a miscarriage and celebrated the births of their son, Douglas, and their daughter, Courtney. Bill had left the family business and opened a sports bar and restaurant, the Sporting Club — which consumed most of his time. He'd tried and failed to kick his cocaine habit and wouldn't get professional help.
Vicki entered a 12-step program for those with addicted family members. She started seeing a therapist. To support herself and the kids, she went back to work as a fashion buyer.
But this was no happy ending. The 12-step program and therapy helped Vicki understand her problems — not solve them. She still felt empty, exhausted, hopeless.
A new beginning
Real change didn't come until Vicki heard the good news that Jesus Christ offered her a new life. In November 1987, she attended a dinner where former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Don Hodel and his wife, Barbara, explained the Gospel. Afterward, Vicki prayed to receive Christ.
Soon she was sharing the message with everybody she knew, including Bill — who thought she'd become involved in a cult. Douglas and Courtney responded to their mom by praying to receive Christ, too.
"It was the kids who suggested we pray for Daddy," Vicki recalls. "I didn't even want to get back together. . . . And then in the process of praying — after Douglas suggested we pray for Dad — God really changed my heart."
It was a struggle, though.
"I remember one day getting off the subway and walking home after work," Vicki says, "and running into Billy getting into our car with another woman outside of the apartment where he was living, and thinking, I'm working full time, I'm going home to take care of the kids, and he's in a whole other world. I remember thinking at the time that we would never get back together."
Finally she realized that obeying God would require doing the hard but right thing — living God's way, not Vicki's. So she took the divorce option off the table and trusted God for the outcome.
Too hard for God?
By September 1990, Vicki and Bill had been separated for four years. "I just at some point felt there was more to life than the way I was living it," says Bill. "Some kind of change was needed. I couldn't continue the way I was."
That's when Bill accepted Vicki's invitation to a luncheon featuring former Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson, a Christian. After lunch, Richardson went to the Sporting Club with Bill, where the two of them talked about the Lord. Three months later, at a Christmas outreach dinner, Bill checked a box on a response card that said, "I prayed to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior tonight."
Six weeks later, he checked into a drug rehab program, where, in record time, God gave him the ability to resist cocaine — and to this day he hasn't touched it again.
But Bill had yet to move back home. He and Vicki entered marriage counseling where both were tempted again and again to call it quits. Finally, Bill packed his bags and returned home on Dec. 10, 1991.
Where are they now?
Today Vicki has a ministry of speaking and Bible teaching that's taken her across the U.S. and to several other countries. Bill sometimes shares Vicki's platform, and sometimes he speaks alone. Whether speaking or writing, the Roses share hard-won insights on staying together.
"We still have such different interests," Vicki says. "Billy loves to play golf, and I'd rather watch paint dry." Still, there's hope. "Neither one of us likes opera," Bill says. "That's something we have in common," Vicki jokes.
Thanks to the long, painful "War of the Roses," that's not all they share. "Because of the intimacy with Jesus Christ gained through the battle," Vicki says, "I would not trade all that we have walked through for an ‘easy,' struggle-free marriage. Our hope is that others would see that God is able to restore — and desires to restore — that which is broken and turn it into something new and beautiful."
John Duckworth is a writer, editor and author of a dozen books.